Yes, this is a small listicle about company building and operating in this era — something I have learned through experiences at two startup stints. The most recent one (Rent the Runway) IPO’ed and I wrote a quick summary of that journey here — especially my evolution from a data nerd to a cross-functional leader/operator.
Listicles don’t typically capture nuance. The difficulty of capturing nuance in the smallest possible bite is an evergreen topic of discussion — but we all know quotes that survive the test of time and pack a meaningful punch. So, with that as the inspiration:
Here goes “3 Principles I Believe are Key To Operating a Modern Organization”:
1. Every company is a data company
In 2011, Marc Andreessen wrote an essay — “why software is eating the world” — and followed up with a thesis that every company will need to be a software company to compete. In 2021, every company is a data company sitting on small or large sets of data that need to be transformed into action and energy — decision-making energy. This is all about harnessing the power latent within these data sets/observations. The ones who do this well, consistently well, and drive both their strategy and tactics will serve their customers (multiples) better and dominate their markets.
2. Inputs > Outputs
After decades of operating and management wisdom obsessing over outputs, results, outcomes, OKRs etc, there is an emerging belief system around quality of inputs. Don’t get me wrong — results are the ultimate indicators but they are lagging indicators. If the inputs — and the process by which we transform data into decisions — are of high quality, the outputs will take care of themselves. In a complex world where many experiments fail, sustained high quality inputs are the true differentiator.
3. Tools matter
If the input quality and the process matters, then it stands to reason, the tools we use matter. The power of a good tool compounds over time — the hours saved for individuals and teams by removing the grunt work, the higher transparency and trust of systems and numbers, the increased leverage of the individual’s work, and the improved collaboration among the team.
There is a part of me that holds a reductive belief that brilliant people working hard together can accomplish anything and tools aren’t that critical BUT it is a simplistic view for this era — good tooling has an invisible power that can shape and drive sustained, high quality inputs/decision-making, and as a direct consequence, reduces the need for capricious brilliance.
Or, put even more simply, the key equation to a high performing modern org:
Data + Tooling + High Quality Inputs → Outputs Take Care of Themselves